July 06, 2023
An enraged mob of the majority Muslim community on Wednesday halted the construction of an Ahmadiyya place of worship (also known as Baitul Zikr) in Sindh’s Sanghar district near Mirpurkhas, with local police sealing the building.
Meanwhile, over the past few weeks, other incidents of hate crimes and violence towards the Ahmadiyya community have been reported from Kotli in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Sheikhupura in Punjab as well as some other areas.
Minarets caused uproar
The construction of the house of an Ahmadi leader and the Baitul Zikr had sparked outrage among locals as the architecture of the Baitiul Zikr allegedly included a minaret, which is a common feature of Muslim architecture and is therefore associated for many with mosques.
On Wednesday, an angry mob surrounded the building, and only dispersed after police halted construction and sealed the place of worship to ‘keep the peace’.
A representative of the Ahmadiyya community described the occurrence as an unfortunate act and a threat to the community. He questioned the police’s performance in the incident and their inclination towards those who he alleged to be associated with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a conservative religiopolitico party.
Article 298-B of the Constitution of Pakistan restricts the Ahmadiyya community from referring to their place of worship as a “masjid”.
“Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship a “Masjid”; shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine,” the section reads.
The community has opted for the term “Baitul Zikr” to describe their place of worship, which meaning ‘place of contemplation’.
Demolition of gravestones
Meanwhile, on separate incidents, the gravestones of Ahmadi graves in Kotli and Sheikhupura were allegedly desecrated by unidentified individuals in the cover of night.
“We are being targeted for a long time and not even our graves are safe,”
said a spokesperson of the community. “It is deeply saddening for us”.
After a call from TLP leaders, five first information reports (FIRs) were registered against members of the Ahmadiyya community for allegedly slaughtering or attempting to slaughter sacrificial animals on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha.
In recent times, the TLP has also negotiated terms with the government on the matter of curbing blasphemy, as confirmed by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on June 18.
Since 1984, Muslim mobs have destroyed 31 places of worship of the Ahmadiyya community and sealed 44 others. 39 Ahmadi bodies have also been unearthed after being buried with rites. Since 1984, at least 279 Ahmadis have died as a result of their faith.